In October last year London based artist Katie Tunn abandoned the city in favour of a nature-focused life on the Isle of Skye. She intended to stay for six months but is still happily living in the northernmost cottage on the island. As well as being successful portrait artist, Katie is also the brains behind Art for Oceans, a project that promotes marine conservation through art and creativity We caught up with Katie to hear about her life in Scotland and her work.
Tell us why you moved to Skye?
There wasn't one defining thing that led me up here. But I remember looking at flats in London and wondering how I could afford to continue a life in the city. I would see pictures of the Highlands and Islands with bright blue oceans and dramatic, colourful hills and would long to be there. Then there were a couple of little sparks, an encouragement from a friend, a potential job prospect, and I thought "Okay! I've got a chance, I'm taking it." I was single, self-employed and without dependents; I wasn't sure if I'd ever have that window of freedom again. It always pays to take a chance.
At first I only meant to stay for 6 months, just a brief escape from the city, but now I've fallen in love with the place and I don't see myself leaving in the near future.
More people seem to be escaping the city for an outdoor focused life, why do you think this is?
Everyone has different reasons for turning away from a busy urban lifestyle. I think that one of the main reasons is that we have so much and that's not fulfilling us. Being in wild places gives us a feeling that material goods cannot. But I hope that as more of us turn to nature for fulfilment it will mean that as a society we start to re-evaluate the value of natural places and their positive impact on our health and wellbeing.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No two days are the same here. I'm busy with commissions at the moment so I'm trying to put most of my hours into painting in the studio. On other days I'll be organising beach cleans, writing articles or doing illustrations, it's incredibly varied! But whatever happens work-wise I'll always fit in a walk, whether it's a whole day out on the hills or just 30 minutes walking the dog on the beach. There's a lot to explore up here and I'm still finding new places.
Have you found that living in Scotland has changed your work?
Because I work in portrait painting it hasn't really influenced me in that way it would for a landscape artist. Although the pressures of work feel a lot easier here; the cost of living is significantly lower than in London, so I have a more relaxed work/life balance. That said, in winter we don't get many hours of daylight so when I have a deadline I have to try and cram in as much painting as I can!
What inspired your Art for Oceans project?
I kept reading reports on how much our ocean wildlife is suffering and couldn't just sit back and be passive. Without any formal qualifications in conservation science or marine biology I thought I'd try to get involved using one of the fields I knew best: art. The aim is to draw attention to marine conservation issues in a fun, accessible way.
Has your interest in ocean welfare impacted the way you eat?
Completely, the more I've learned about the impacts of commercial fishing the harder it is to justify pushing entire ecosystems to extinction, so that I can have a nice meal. It's a big ask for everyone to give up seafood altogether but if we all cut down it would help give our oceans more of a fighting chance.
How do you approach your skincare routine, is it influenced by the Skye weather?
My skincare routine is fairly basic. Since my teens I've had 'problem skin', with spots and blocked pores and I've found that if I use too many products it exacerbates those problems. However, living in a place with intense wind and low temperatures has meant that a good moisturiser is vital to protect my skin against the harsh weather. Just a couple of days on the hill without it can lead to a very red, sore face!